Following some of the severest forest fires in Kauai's history, Gov. Neil Abercrombie has issued an executive order allowing the state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) to proceed with emergency actions in response to the Kauai fires of summer 2012. The three fires were the largest and most significant wildfires on Kauai island since the 1960s.
"Having this emergency proclamation in place will empower DLNR to act swiftly to purchase materials and implement the necessary actions to prevent further serious environmental damage," Gov. Abercrombie said. "The order will also aid in the conversion of a forest dominated by non-native species to a greater abundance of native forest and understory species for improved watershed health."
Between May to August 2012, approximately 3,000 acres burned in West Kauai, including 1,012 forest acres burned in the Na Pali-Kona Forest Reserve, Puuka Pele Forest Reserve and Kuia Natural Area Reserve, damaging or putting at risk local wildlife and native ecosystems. Immediate action is needed to stabilize and quickly revegetate denuded slopes and minimize the long-term ecological impacts to the mauka forests and marine ecosystems from heavy rains, downed woody debris and runoff.
The emergency proclamation's principal objectives are to:
remove dead standing trees along roads that are a threat to access and public safety;
establish ground cover to stabilize soils that are exposed and prone to erosion;
implement measures to prevent flooding, landslides and sedimentation on coral reefs;
offset invasive plant colonization with native plant establishment in open burned areas;
re-establish access to important hiking and hunting areas;
restore hydrological and groundwater functions provided by upland forested watersheds; and
enhance native species habitat through reforestation efforts.
"We are confident these timely actions will help reduce imminent hazards to public safety and natural resources. We are working to ensure that the best local and regional knowledge is utilized in short- and long-term mitigation efforts," said William J. Aila, Jr., DLNR chairperson.
Since August, DLNR's Division of Forestry and Wildlife has already taken critical remediation steps to reduce harmful environmental conditions and ensure public safety. These actions include continued closure of sections of two forest reserves for public safety, until further notice; hazard tree removal from forest reserve roads by a team of statewide foresters; surveying and mapping all of the burned areas; acquisition of a significant amount of grass seeds to be used in a large scale soil stabilization effort; and ongoing consultation with local and regional experts to develop a short- and long-term forest restoration management plan.
Kauai Forest and Grassland Fires of Summer 2012
Last summer, Kauai County and state firefighters collaborated in battling three fires that burned a combined 3,000 acres and cost $840,000 in DLNR firefighting costs alone:
May 28 to June 5, 2012 -- Milolii forest fire burned approximately 247 acres in the Na Pali-Kona Forest Reserve, Puuka Pele Forest Reserve and Kuia Natural Area Reserve. DLNR's firefighting costs were $247,000.
June 28 to July 3, 2012 --Hikimoe forest fire burned 765 acres in Puuka Pele Forest. The May-June and June-July fires together impacted five different watersheds: Hikimoe, Haeleele, Makaha, Milolii, and Kaulaula. Up to 85 county and state firefighters collaborated in controlling the fire. DLNR's firefighting costs were $375,000.
Aug. 16 to 22, 2012 -- Fires at Pokii, Paua and Waiaka Ridges burned another 2,000 acres of grasslands. DLNR's firefighting costs were $218,000.
The Governor's emergency proclamation can be viewed here: